By Wilson Walker

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — One year after the emergence of a virus that would upend life in the Bay Area, there were signs that the end of the pandemic is in sight.

On Saturday, Andy Balram was upbeat as he made his way into Moscone Center for a COVID-19 vaccination. Balram made sure to show up early for an appointment he booked online Thursday.

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“That’s very encouraging and I hope that other people my age can do that too,” he said.

Kevin Vander Wahl was another happy customer and, like many others, he couldn’t help but think of this day in a larger context.

“I’m very excited,” Vander Wahl said. “Thank you to all of those involved. I see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Across the Bay at Golden Gate Fields, the Berkeley Fire Department was vaccinating some 800 people Saturday. It was a team effort in every sense. Some patients, like Chris Agrentos, were there thanks to scheduling and transportation efforts made by their neighbors.

“My wife did the bulk of the work in terms of getting him (Agrentos) scheduled,” explained Dan Williams. “There’s a little bit of a challenge getting him scheduled through his health provider but this one worked out.”

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“We’re sick and tired of seeing people who are sick,” said Berkeley fire captain Colin Arnold. “And we feel like this is the beginning of turning this corner, we are very excited about the volume we have here.”

Slowly but surely, the state’s effort to distribute vaccine is starting to pick up speed and much of the promise lies in similar large sites featuring direct distribution in large numbers with no confusion about where the vaccine is going or how much of it is getting used.

“There’s always a risk of transmission in those lines,” said UCSF epidemiologist George Rutherford. “That’s why you’re a little hesitant about having it too big but I think it’s absolutely the way to go, with a little bit of extra stuff for people who can’t get there.”

California actually vaccinated more than 200,000 people last Saturday. Not a bad number considering weekends started very slowly. Health experts caution that it may take a month for distribution to get up to full speed.

“I think we’re seeing it maybe a week earlier than we thought we would,” Rutherford said. “We’re on the downslope of cases so all of this is starting to look good. Now the only issue is the (virus) variants, what’s going to happen to them, where are they, how susceptible will they be to vaccines?”

If anyone needed encouraging signs, it was a good day.

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“I’m losing sleep at night thinking about cone patterns,” Arnold said. “But I’m also waking up in the middle night thinking, ‘hey this is the thing, we’re starting to get there.'”